It’s unsurprising that technology is becoming a greater and greater presence in people’s shopping habits. A recent consumer survey found that upwards of half (62 per cent) of US consumers with access to the Internet shop online at least once a month. Eight out of 10 of them said they were happy with their experiences, too, making it a trend that’s unlikely to reverse any time soon. What other trends are impacting how people use technology to shop? Let’s take a look.

Mobile Platforms

Smartphones and tablets have had a huge impact on how people shop online, with 50 per cent of online shoppers saying they use their mobile phone to make purchases and 60 per cent saying they use their tablet.

It’s likely that the reason for this is two-fold. One is that for some consumers, their phone is their only point of access for the Internet. Another is simply the ease. Smartphones enable users to make purchases anywhere without being stuck behind a desktop or laptop computer. It enables them to shop any time, anywhere, and facilitates impulse purchases.

Still, PC accounts for the most time spent on retail sites overall. 49 per cent of time shopping online is spend on PC, smartphones account for 37 per cent of time spent and tablets made up 14 per cent.

Shopping Around

Many shoppers don’t make the effort to view products in a physical space before buying online. That might not seem especially surprising, especially where smaller purchases are concerned. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that only 36 per cent of online shoppers searching alternate sites to see if another retailer has their item in stock and listed for less money.

Meanwhile, some 60 per cent of people buying online like to receive some kind of promotion or incentive from a brand before they make a purchase. One possible translation of this is that people still expect online retailers to be sources of discounts

How they spend their money

Consumer electronics are the leading category when it comes to online buying, making up 69 per cent of bought products. Books are next at 67 per cent, followed by clothing and apparel (63 per cent); household goods (38 per cent); office supplies (30 per cent); consumer packaged goods (28 per cent); sporting goods (20 per cent); pet supplies (20 per cent) and food & groceries (20 per cent).

Free Shipping

80 per cent of consumers say that they are more likely to make an online purchase when free shipping is offered. It’s easy to see why – with free shipping there’s very little downside to an online purchase, barring the necessity of making sure the item can be delivered at a convenient time.

Likewise, 64 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase when they are offered free exchanges or returns.

Unexpected sources

While the standard model of ecommerce has become a juggernaut, driven by the likes of Amazon, eBay and the online arms of bricks and mortar retailers, less conventional routes to market also exist.

84 per cent of online shoppers consult one or more social media platform for recommendations before buying, with Facebook receiving 77 per cent of the share, Twitter getting 26 per cent, then LinkedIn (22 per cent); Pinterest (18 per cent).

This also dovetails with the phenomenon of dropshipping that has arisen in recent years, arguably to the detriment of more reputable online retailers. It involves merchants using an online retail platform – typically shopify – to sell products without ever actually having them in stock by linking their online store to a wholesaler like Alibaba (the Chinese equivalent to Amazon) or a manufacturer to fulfill an order. This method of selling usually relies on highly-targeted ads placed on social media, often Instagram, to get sales. This method of online retail has come under fire for misrepresenting its products and for advocates who may be making far more from charging for advice and consultation on dropshipping than from selling anything.

A less controversial, but also somewhat unusual, way that people make purchases is through consumer loyalty programmes such as that run by BingoPort. It operates in much the same way as its offline counterparts – consumers earn points as they use the service (in the case of BingoPort, playing bingo games from their recommended bingo sites) and these points can then be redeemed for bonuses, perks or goods. That might equate to direct purchases of products such as electronics goods or kitchen appliances, or it might be a less direct route to purchase such as with an Amazon voucher or membership to another service like Xbox Live. This can work very well within an industry such as online gaming and specifically online bingo, where the market is extremely competitive and growing at a rapid rate. Encouraging players to remain loyal in exchange for rewards for products of their own choice in return seems to can be an effective strategy when implemented correctly.

The rise of click and collect

Perhaps the biggest, fastest growing trend in the use of technology for commerce is the boom in ‘click and collect’.

Precise estimates of how many people are using it vary a little but paint similar pictures. A Dobble survey earlier in 2019 found that 68 per cent of shoppers use click and collect services. Of those, a massive 85 per cent go on to make an additional purchase when they arrive in store to make their purchase (an earlier International Council of Shopping Centres survey placed that figure at 61 per cent, suggesting the numbers are on the rise.

Tim Robinson, CEO of Doddle, said that click and collect is a growing force in retail. He noted that while the ease of shopping online appeals to consumers, they now want to see that convenience reflected in how they receive the goods.

Half said that they prefer the method because they save on shipping costs, but nearly as many said that they liked the speed and 28 per cent said it was more convenient.

For retailers, there’s an incentive in that they only have to create software for the service once, and from there it saves money on infrastructure such as delivery vehicles.

Convenience is king

The through line for much of how technology is influencing shopping boils down to one thing – convenience. While discounts are a factor, shoppers prize the convenience of being able to make a purchase at any time and are increasingly seeking out that convenience in how their goods are delivered to them. Retailers that can capitalize on this trend stand to benefit enormously.